This morning an email showed up in my inbox from CHRISTIAN FORUMS with the subject line: "Purgatory: Scriptural Or Not... Or Worse?"
The author of the post followed the usual sola scriptura logic of if it's not in the Bible it doesn't exist, but goes further, calling the doctrine of Purgatory (a specifically Catholic doctrine) "the ANTI-Christ."
I read a few of the replies, all of which appeared to agree with the author and some of which even went further in their condemnation of the Catholic doctrine and belief in Purgatory.
I decided to leave the following reply:
The presupposition is that everything that Jesus taught can be found in Scripture. Aside from the fact that Jesus left us nothing in writing, there is also the matter as to who gets to decide what constitutes "Scripture." Just for starters, the followers of Martin Luther say there are 66 books in the Bible, the Catholics say there are 73, and the Greek Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, and Ethiopian Orthodox all add to that. So whose "Bible" shall we refer to?
Additionally, John 21 tells us: “There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written.”
More than likely, the “many other things that Jesus did/taught” may well have occurred in the 40 day period between the Resurrection and his Ascension into heaven. If there ever was a time for Jesus to teach and the Apostles to listen, it certainly would have been during this period.
In Acts 1, Luke tells us: “In the first book, Theophilus, I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught until the day he was taken up, after giving instructions through the holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them during forty days* and speaking about the kingdom of God.”
Obviously there was much instruction during this period but nothing specific seems to be recorded in “scripture.” In fact, Luke references his “first book” (probably his Gospel), where he dealt with “all that Jesus did and taught UNITL the day he was taken up.” However, other than the Road to Emmaus account, nothing much else is said about what Jesus did or taught during this period. So it may be that this portion of Luke’s Gospel was lost.
Specific to your inquiry, though, regarding a scriptural reference to Purgatory. A “third place” which is not Heaven or Hell can be found in Revelation 20:13-14: “The sea gave up its dead; then Death and Hades gave up their dead. All the dead were judged according to their deeds. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the pool of fire.”
At this point I will copy a portion of what I have already written on the matter elsewhere with a link to the source:
The passage (Revelation 20:13-14) occurs within the context of a description of events which will occur at the end of time. One of the main events is that Hades will “give up its dead”. We know Hades isn’t Hell (understood as the place of eternal damnation) because Hell is noted separately as “the pool of fire”. And we for sure know that Hades isn’t Heaven. So what is it?
Classically, Hades is understood as a holding place for the dead. Such a place was seen as necessary before Christ opened the gates of Heaven, but deemed by Luther and others as unnecessary after. Yet, here we are at the end of time, and not only is Hades still around, its got souls “holed up” there.
What are they doing there? There can be only one explanation. They are not deserving of Hell (or else they’d be there), and not yet worthy of Heaven (or else they’d be there). They are in fact, “spirits in prison”, which comports with Mt. 5:26: “you will not get out of there until you have paid the last penny.” http://www.themassneverends.com/2012/11/heaven-probably-not-your-next-stop.html